Since I was little every year, we would watch the Christmas Carol in December. It has become one of my favorite holiday movies. I’ve tried to continue that tradition now with my own family. I’ll be honest here currently it’s the Muppet Christmas Carol, it still counts!
This year was the first year I connected the film to a concept I talk about frequently in therapy. I try to help create mindfulness around each person’s focus in their life, and I say “If you feel depressed, you’re living in the past, if you feel anxious you’re living in the future”. I see this idea expressed in the timeless story of the Christmas Carol. Scrooge is visited by three spirits to show him the direction his life is going, the past, present, & future.
The Ghost of Christmas Past. The spirit appears to Scrooge as a white-robed, androgynous figure of indeterminate age. It has on its head a blazing light, reminiscent of a candle flame, and carries a metal cap, made in the shape of a candle extinguisher. It has been presented as a small child and a flickering light. Like a candle flame, gone in only a moment.
This Spirit shows Scrooge what could have been different in his life. It shows the moments he made the choices that led him to his current condition. He can’t change the direction or influence the outcome, only learn from his actions. In revisiting the past, he just feels sadness and regret.
Then we see the Ghost of Christmas Present. This spirit appears to Scrooge as "a jolly giant" with dark brown curls. He wears a fur-lined green robe and on his head a holly wreath set with shining icicles. He carries a large torch, made to resemble a cornucopia, and appears accompanied by a great feast.
This Spirit is jolly, forgetful, and celebrates to the fullest. This spirit represents the opportunity we have for the present. Each moment is a real-time gift to be, happy, fun, and joyful. Eventually, he ages and passes and then a new moment begins. The present is our moment of most significant moment of influence. The time of least strife and struggle. It’s our fullest opportunity for gratitude and celebration. It’s no wonder therapy is often a focus of returning to the present.
Then the Ghost of Christmas Future. The most fearsome of the Spirits; it appears to Scrooge as a figure entirely muffled in a black hooded cloak, except for a single spectral hand with which it points. It’s important to note that the spirit doesn’t speak. The future can’t tell us anything; Scrooge forms all his assumptions on his own from what he sees.
The future creates fear and anxiety. We can’t fully expect or prepare for what hasn’t happened. When considering the future one may feel the anxiety of losing control, precisely because we do lose control in the future. Although Scrooge begs and pleads with this Spirit, he gets no response and no change.
Then Scrooge is once again brought to the present. What remains are lessons from the past, present, and future. These experiences are the only actual value of visiting the past or present. By revisiting the past, we can learn from mistakes and redirect our current state. In the future, we can prepare and understand the direction we want our life to go. However, the change needs to occur in the present. The action happens in the now.
In the present is where Scrooge finally experiences the joy the Spirit of Christmas Present represented. He is now able to affect the lives of others and his own. This holiday season may we all learn from the past, prepare for the future, but most importantly live and celebrate in the present. We can approach the current moment with the invitation from the spirit in the story “Come in! Come in! and know me better!”
Joe Gorton, CMHC
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. There is so much that the family and I enjoy doing together. Decorations, parties, fall events, pumpkins, and carving, costumes and candy! So much to do… to clean up after… to stay on top of. And it’s not like life takes a back seat just because it’s October.
As much as I love holidays, they can also be overwhelming. I personally try to cram in as much Halloween fun as I can because I won’t have another chance until next year! By the end of it I’m exhausted. Last year, right after the Christmas holiday (also my favorite). I found myself sick unable to get better despite any of the medical interventions we were trying. Ultimately, I wasn’t getting better, because I wasn’t doing self-care.
We can’t effectively care for others, unless we first care for ourselves. It’s like the saying “you can’t drink from an empty cup”.
Because Holidays are “fun” we forget the need for self-care even during the holidays. They are fun, but especially for parents they’re fun in a different way. It’s fun to carve pumpkins with the kids, although it’s an all-day ordeal. It’s fun to go trick or treating, even though you probably just came home from work before you go. It is fun, and it’s tiring. You need to carve out some time for self-care. Here are a few tips:
Let’s divide self-care up into categories. You can then evaluate what you need to increase to create balance.
Options for self-care are endless. Create your own diagram and put in activities that you would do, focusing on mind, emotions, and body as well think of all the areas they overlap. Once you’ve identified your activities, begin to carve out some time for your self-care this Halloween and in the approaching holiday season.